Food and drink labelling changes from 1 January 2021 - An update

There has been an update this month to the UK Government's guidance on food and drink labelling changes following the transition period. Please click here for the full information.

The main update points on labelling are as follows:

  • The UK will allow the continued use of an EU or NI Food Business Operator (FBO) address on the label rather than require a UK address for imported food from the EU or NI until 30 September 2022.
  • Food from and sold in GB can be labelled as ‘origin EU’ until 30 September 2022.
  • Producers or retailers of GB food, drink and agricultural Geographical Indications (GI) products registered before 1 January 2021, will have until 1 January 2024 to change packaging and marketing materials to display the new UK GI

This will go some way in helping to reduce the risk of potential food supply disruptions this January . Although, to date, the EU has not similarly updated their provisions therefore, currently, as at 1 January 2021 all food placed on the EU market will have to meet EU rules; including having an EU address on labels/packaging for the FBO (ie food producer or first importer into the EU) and abiding by EU country of origin requirements and geographical indications. There are specific points of difference with Northern Ireland (NI).

The other issues dealt with in the updated guidance concern differentiating certifying bodies between the UK and EU, health and ID marks, country of origin labelling, geographical indications, as well as guidance on labelling for individual foods such as honey, olive oil, eggs, fruit and vegetables, minced meat and beef and veal.  If ‘equivalency’ of standards is agreed whereby the UK and EU agree to recognise each other’s standards then some of these issues may resolve.

Some summary points of a few of these areas are:

EU Organic Logo – UK food producers may only use this logo if their UK control body is authorised by the EU to certify UK goods for export to the EU or ‘equivalency’ is agreed.  

Country of origin -. Food from NI can continue to use ‘origin EU’.  Food from and sold in GB can be labelled as ‘origin EU’ until 30 September 2022.  From 1 October 2022, food from GB must not be labelled as ‘origin EU’. Food exported into the EU from GB must not be labelled as origin ‘EU’ from 1 January 2021.

Geographical Indication - The UK will set up its own GI schemes from 1 January 2021.  Producers or retailers of GB food, drink and agricultural GI products registered before 1 January 2021, will have until 1 January 2024 to change packaging and marketing materials to display the new UK GI logos.  The UK logo will be mandatory for GB products registered from 1 January 2021 onwards.

For producers or retailers of food and agricultural GI products in NI, it will be mandatory to continue using the EU logos when the product is on sale in NI, if the product is registered under the EU GI schemes.  It will be optional to use the new UK GI logos if the product is registered under the UK GI schemes.

Health & ID marks - UK legislation is being proposed to allow a 21-month adjustment period for goods placed on the market in GB to reduce the impact of the change in requirements for identification marks.

Enforcement

Food is ‘placed on the market’ when it is first supplied for distribution, consumption, or commercial use, whether free of charge or not. This broad definition will mean that there may be a level of selling through of food within the supply chain after the 1 January 2021.

Although this is the legal position, our practical advice would be that food producers have documentation to hand in order to be able to substantiate the date food was placed on the market if challenged.  Additionally, where possible food producers may prefer to have food present in the EU member state that it may be sold through to, in order to reduce the risk of any hold up at borders.

Local authorities in GB will be responsible for enforcement of labelling changes.

For further information on this or any other food regulatory or product liability matter please contact Jessica Burt on jessica.burt@mills-reeve.com 

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